The Kamloops Blazers found another diamond in the rough, drafting Eric Christensen in the sixth round, 101st overall in the 1998 WHL Bantam Draft and the young man, who doesn’t turn 16 until mid-December, is already turning heads with his early season play. The 6’1, 170-pound winger has drawn praise for his awareness on the ice and gritty play at such a young age, leading Barry Trapp of the Canadian World Junior Team selection committee, who was attending a recent Blazer game to scout talent for the upcoming WJC, to shake his head at the unlimited potential of this guy. During an early season game against the Prince George Cougars, Christensen stood out not only for his heads up offensive play, but also for bloodying the nose of 17-year-old Jonathan Parker during a line brawl. This combination of skill and toughness is not often found in 15-year-old rookies in the WHL nevermind a sixth round pick. The Blazers also have the first and second round picks from the same draft in their line up, but Christensen is drawing most of the attention as a potential franchise player.
News And Notes:
It is now the eighth week of the season and the Ice stand with a record of 11-5-4-0 (7-3-1-0 at home and 4-2-3-0 on the road.) The Ice are currently in second place in the Central division and are closing in on rivals, the Calgary Hitmen. The Ice are on a six-game unbeaten streak and have won their last 5 games.
What A Trip:
The Ice became the first Eastern Conference team in history to ever win all three games on the road against Canadian Western Conference teams. (Kamloops 3-2, Kelowna 4-2 and Prince George 6-2.) The Ice have tied their franchise record for consecutive road wins (3) and are unbeaten in their last four road games (3-0-1.)
Green Almost Number One:
Mike Green needs only nine more points to become the all-time franchise leader in career points (154 set by Jay Henderson 1996-1998.) Green leads the team in scoring on the road and also leads the team in plus minus with a plus 13. Green is the all-time Kootenay leader in career assists with 83.
Forward Tyler Beechey still remains out of the line-up with a shoulder injury and Steve McCarthy has missed the last three games with a slight knee strain.
Who’s Doing What?:
Goaltender Dan Blackburn is 5-1-0-0 in his last six starts with a .233 GAA, .910 Save Percentage and has had eight shutout periods.
Jason Jaffray has scored at least one point in his last four games (2-6-8 in span.)
Brad Tutschek scored the game-winning goal against both Kamloops and Kelowna on this last road trip.
WHL Player of the Week:
Our very own, Jaroslav Svoboda, was named the Sprint Canada WHL Player of the Week after notching 2 goals and 6 assists in his last three games. This is the second time in his career and the sixth player in franchise history to achieve this honor.
First Time Ever:
For the first time in franchise history, the Kootenay Ice have won a regular season game against their arch nemesis, The Calgary Hitmen.
The line of Svoboda (2-6-8), Green (4-2-6) and Blatny (3-3-6) has combined for twenty points during the three game unbeaten streak.
Forward Tyler Beechey will be out of the lineup for two to three weeks with a shoulder injury. Graham Belak left after the first period in the game against Calgary yet there is no word on his injury. Dean Arsene returned to the lineup after missing three games with the flu.
Where We Stand:
The Kootenay Ice are tied for second place with Lethbridge for the second spot in the Central Division with 20 points. The Calgary Hitmen are still in first with 27 points. The Ice are 8-5-4-0 so far this year.
Ice vs. Lethbridge Hurricanes
October 29, 1999
Ice Win 5-2
Jaffray (Stoll, Lassu)
Beechey (Green, Svoboda)
Tutschek (McCarthy, Johnson)
Beechey (Svoboda, Fischer)
Dan Blackburn (18 saves, 2GA)
Ice @ Lethbridge
October 30, 1999
Ice Loss 4-0
B.J. Boxma (29 saves, 4GA)
Entering the seventh week of the WHL West Division season things are beginning to take shape as the large descrepancy in games played amongst the teams is begining to dwindle. The Prince George Cougars currently lead the division with 22 points from eighteen games played while the second place Spokane Chiefs have twenty points from sixteen games to this point. The Tri-City Americans and Seattle Thunderbirds follow in third and fourth respectively, with the Ams having seventeen points from fourteen games played and the T-Birds with fifteen points from thirteen games. Kelowna Rockets and Kamloops Blazers have fifteen points as well, but Kelowna has played eighteen games while the Blazers lead the division with nineteen games under their belts and the Portland Winterhawks trail the field with seven points from sixteen games. My preseason picks now look dismal as the only team I’m even close to is the Portland Winterhawks in last, which I predicted but so did everyone else in the world.
The Brandon Wheat Kings year after year seem to find a way to the medical ward. Injuries have been the story every season for the Wheat Kings and this year is no exception. As of this date Dan Tetrault has a groin problem, others on the shelf include Brett Thurston with a shoulder problem. Wade Skolney has an injured back; Richard Mueller has yet another concussion and Jamie Hodson is still laid up until late November from his knee problems. J.D. Kehler just returned from a long absence from well back in last year.
Add in the fact this Wheat Kings edition is the smallest team I have seen in the Western Hockey League and one would think you would have a recipe for disaster. Not necessarily so.
In spite of all the challenges there is a lot of good things going on with the Wheaties. Only two games out of third and 3 recent road wins on their West Coast swing and things look okay for a very young team.
Here is each player’s progress report so far this fall:
Jamie Hodson – still laid up from last years’ season ending injury, Hodson is the Wheat Kings best goalie as he proved last year and one of the best three in the Western Hockey League. Stay tuned for my prediction on his future. Brandon now has three 19 year old goaltenders in the fold…hmmmmmm?